Monday, 16 October 2017

Going Abroad with Chronic Physical and Mental Illnesses

Last month, I went on holiday to Gran Canaria, with my parents. As a person with multiple mental health, physical health, and mobility problems, the thought of travelling abroad can be quite daunting and nerve wracking. Will I remember everything I need to pack? How would I be able to get across a large airport, when I can't walk far at the best of times? How will I keep myself calm? Will there be toilets available nearby? How can I plan my holiday to make sure I'm not overdoing it every day? These were just a few worries that I had. Below, I explain how I eased or solved these problems.

Packing:

About a week before I was set to go, I made lists of things to pack. I wanted to ensure I would be able to keep as cool and comfortable as possible.

  • I picked clothes that could mostly be slipped on, with no fiddly fastenings to deal with.
  • I made sure I packed extra medication (including extra pain medication) so that I definitely had enough for the holiday.
  • To keep myself cool (as well as for easily removing makeup!), I packed a full pack of face wipes. 
  • I packed travel size bottles of shampoo, shower gel, moisturiser etc. These are useful for keeping the luggage weight below the allowance, but also are easier on achy arms. There will be days where washing/showering is a struggle, so light products are helpful.
  • Dry shampoo! I usually try to shower every other day, but sometimes I have to miss a few days, so dry shampoo is absolutely wonderful for ensuring my hair stays relatively fresh and clean.

At the Airport:

There are various things to consider, when at the airport, especially when you are chronically ill (physically or mentally). 
  • It is important to book special assistance at least 48 hours before you are due to travel. 
  • As soon as you arrive at the airport, find OCS for special assistance. They can help with getting across the airport and through security, as well as boarding the plane and even getting you to your seat (using an aisle wheelchair) if needs be. You can use your own wheelchair, if you have one, or one will be provided for you. There may also be mobility scooters available if you'd prefer to use those. I flew from Birmingham airport and found OCS opposite the Spar shop in departures. Make sure you have your passport and boarding ticket to hand, to show when asked. 
  • This link will give you more information about special assistance at Birmingham Airport specifically. For any other airports, there should be information about disabled facilities and special assistance on their website.

On the Plane:

  • Ask for assistance, if you need help with putting your hand luggage in the overhead locker. Airline staff are there to help!
  • I find it's helpful to have anything you need for the flight to hand (maybe in a handbag if it fits) so that you won't need to get to the overhead locker and search for your bag amongst the others.

Arriving at your destination's airport:

  • It's likely that passengers will need to alight the plane via the stairs (unless you're lucky and a tunnel is ready!) An ambilift will be available, however, for passengers needing special assistance.
  • You will need to wait until everyone (not needing special assistance) has left the plane, before assistance and the ambilift will be available. This may take a little while, so it's best to remain seated until you see special assistance staff.
  • If you have checked in your own wheelchair, it may be the case that it will arrive on a different carousel to your suitcase/s. At Las Palma Airport, the wheelchair arrived on the last carousel to the right. We weren't made aware of this beforehand, so had a bit of a panic before a member of staff advised us!

Transfers from the airport to your destination.

  • Coaches can be a nightmare to get onto; with large steps and rarely any toilets. The amount of stops they make can increase the journey time by a lot as well. I would suggest booking a taxi. It pretty much halves the journey time!

At your destination

  • I know it's tempting to plan to do a lot on holiday (especially if there's lots to do/explore!) but consider what makes you flare up. As you would at home (when having plans for days/nights out), rest up as much as you can, before doing anything potentially flare-inducing. Most hotels have areas near reception where you can relax, so keep that in mind if the cleaner needs to access your room. 
Are there any other tips you would give for fellow spoonies? Comment below!


Resources

https://www.birminghamairport.co.uk/at-the-airport/terminal-facilities/special-assistance/

Wednesday, 4 October 2017

A Review of Resonant Botanicals Qi of Calm Lotion (Sponsored Blog Post)

Disclaimer: I have been given this product as part of a product review through the Chronic Illness Bloggers network. Although the product was a gift, all opinions in this review remain my own and I was in no way influenced by the company.

I suffer from multiple anxiety disorders (including Generalised Anxiety Disorder and Social Anxiety Disorder) and find that I often need something to calm my nerves quite quickly. I get the most anxiety when in busy situations particularly. In the past, I've used Diazepam, which has been effective for anxiety, panic, and sleep, but I can only get this on prescription when close to/in crisis. This leaves me without adequate treatment when panicking or suffering insomnia due to anxiety. I did want to try something more natural, just to see if it would help. To be honest, I take enough medication and would rather not take any more! I was given the opportunity to try out and review Resonant Botanicals Qi of Calm Lotion, and decided to give it a go.


Resonant Botanicals Qi of Calm is a lotion, combining herbs, essential oils and green tea, in order to help with anxiety and sleep. The combination of herbs, including lavender, skullcap, and ashwaganda, works to protect against stress and maintain an emotional balance. Essential oils, including Frankincense, Chamomile, and Bergamot, help with relaxation. Finally, green tea contains an amino acid that is also said to promote relaxation.


How to use: The lotion works by being applied to certain areas of the body which are said to be associated with balancing emotions and promoting a sense of calm. Rub in a small amount of the lotion on the left side of the abdomen, (just below the ribs), on the neck below the chin, and the bottoms of your feet. 


The Bottle


Qi of Calm Lotion comes in a fairly large silver bottle, with a pump dispenser. Directions for use are clearly displayed on the left side, and ingredients on the right side. The lotion is very easily dispensed, and one dispensed amount is more than enough to apply to all of the points recommended.


The Scent


The lotion has quite a herbal scent; which is quite pleasant. I find the scent itself quite calming, and believe this is probably partly how the product works. Personally, I feel the scent lasts a bit longer than I would've liked, but this is purely subjective. 


The Feel


The texture is soft; with not too thick or thin creamy substance. The lotion spreads very well, so only a small amount is needed. One bottle should last you a while. 


Is it Effective?


I've not noticed a significant improvement in my sleep, but I do find this product has an immediate calming effect. I think it is best to use it shortly before bedtime or any other time you need to feel calm quickly. 


Give it a try!


If you are interested in trying Qi of Calm Lotion, then you can find the product page here . I do recommend giving it a try, it is definitely becoming part of my daily regime!



Resources:


Chronic Illness Bloggers network: http://chronicillnessbloggers.us12.list-manage1.com/track/click?u=f454aec32953c83c5884455f5&id=cb55a11487&e=0c4f860658


Resonant Botanicals Qi of Calm product page: http://resonantbotanicals.com/product/qi-of-calm-for-anxiety-relief/


Resonant Botanicals website:  http://resonantbotanicals.com/


Thursday, 7 September 2017

How it Feels to be Numb

I'm having a numb day today. I have these a lot. If I've recently had days with intense mood swings, this can be a relief, but other times, it makes me feel as if I'm broken.

It can be hard to tell if I'm thinking or feeling these things, but when I'm numb, it's like I'm not even human. I'm just some thing that exists with no real purpose. Sometimes self hatred will creep in and I'll become very depressed, but mostly, I don't feel anything.

I want to be "normal" and act like a human being. I want to know what kind of person I am. I want to know what my personality is, and why I should even exist. I want to interact like a "normal" person, but it's as if I've forgotten how. I feel like/think I am an imposter who has to perform reactions and guess how I should respond to things such as someone talking to me. I feel as if I'm doing everything wrong though, and others will notice, and think I'm either weird or rude.

Most of the time, when I feel numb, I dissociate too. Nothing feels real, and I struggle to "ground" myself. I try to focus on things I can see, smell, touch etc but it can be very difficult to convince myself that these things mean that I am real, and I am here.

Eventually, I will come out of this numb feeling and hopefully not straight back into intense mood swings. At the time though, it's as if I will never come out of it.

Do you experience numbness? How does it feel to you?

Wednesday, 23 August 2017

Good Day vs Bad Day

 Good day

The above picture is how I usually look on a good day.

On a good day, I'll wake up in the morning; feeling like I can get through the day. My fatigue is bad, but not unbearable. It will take me about 15 mins to get out of bed and, once the dizziness is gone, I can go to the bathroom and brush my teeth. I will rest after this, and have a wash or shower once my pain meds have kicked in. The pain medication does not completely rid me of pain, but it makes me much more functional than I would be without it. 

I will need to rest, before getting my breakfast, and rest again, before drying my hair. After this, dressing, and makeup, I will have just enough energy to leave the house. On a really good day, which is rare, I will meet a friend for lunch. Anxiety means that I will need to be picked up by them, or given a lift by my dad, but the main thing is that socialising at all is possible. 

Once I'm home, I will rest for the duration of the day; having a few hours nap in the late afternoon if I'm able to sleep. Tea will be something easy to prepare/cook, or it might be a takeaway.


Bad day

The above picture is usually how I look on a bad day

My bad days tend to be very bad. I'm in a lot more pain, pain meds won't touch it (even though I will need to take more than on a good day). I'm dizzy, headache-y, shaky, nauseous, and absolutely exhausted. I will get up in the morning (my cat, Billie, demands it!) but it will take me at least double the time as a good day. I will struggle to stay awake through because of fatigue, but I will struggle to sleep, because of pain and nausea. I won't have the energy to shower or wash. I will make it to the living room for a coffee, brush my teeth after a rest, and "wash" myself with face wipes after another rest. Breakfast will be anything I can grab; such as an apple. It'll have to be something light. 

I will struggle to brush my hair, and I will find the comfiest, loose clothing I can find. The Fibromyalgia makes my skin very sore (as if I'm burnt and bruised all over), so I have to think about the tightness and the material in the clothes I wear. I will take my laptop into the living room, and try to concentrate on a programme, casual game or video clips. My mood will be low, because I'm not able to do much at all. I will feel fed up and I'll be likely to isolate myself from others. 

I will stay sat up for as long as I can, and then will go back to bed until teatime. I may be able to nap, but I'm very unlikely to feel much better for it.

Tea will be a takeaway, and my dad will have to wash up, as standing for more than a few minutes will make me so dizzy, I'm very likely to fall. 

-------------------------------------------------------

Most of the time, my days are something between good and bad. I'm able to manage basic things, such as personal hygiene and preparing simple meals, but things like housework, socialising etc are extremely difficult or impossible. I manage my symptoms by balancing rest with trying to keep moving and doing my physio. I do this to lessen the chances of my joints seizing up, and also for general health. 

How do you manage the symptoms of your chronic illness/es? Do you have any hints and tips, that you  would like to share? Comment below!

Monday, 21 August 2017

Ultrasound Therapy for Hip Bursitis - My experience

(TW: Mention of weight and exercise)

A little while ago, I noticed I was getting a different kind of pain in my hips. The pain radiated over my hips and halfway down the sides of my thighs. It did feel different to my usual pains from the Hypermobility Syndrome and Fibromyalgia. I mentioned this at a medication review, and made an appointment with my GP. She examined my hips and asked me to do a couple of things to see if it affected my movement. Being hypermobile though, I still had a large range of movement. The GP said she suspected Hip Bursitis and referred me for physio.

Hip Bursitis ₁ is basically inflammation of the hip/s. There is a build-up of fluid and, with that and the inflammation, pain and tenderness occurs. It can be caused by a number of things; including injury or trauma. I don't remember knocking my hips on anything, so think mine was caused by the regular subluxations I have. My hips are very hypermobile, and apparently this is quite noticeable when I walk.

It was only a couple of weeks before my first physio appointment, thankfully, and I saw a lovely woman who knew about my conditions. She examined my hips and showed me an exercise I could do; in order to strengthen the muscles round them. She said it's quite rare to get bursitis in both hips (I guess I was just very unlucky!) but both my hips are equally hypermobile, so this is probably why.

She also booked me in for ultrasound ₂ sessions. I asked about this, because I'd never heard of it. I thought physiotherapy mainly involved exercise, but apparently there are other types of therapy that can be used. The physiotherapist told me that cold gel is put on my hip, then the ultrasound device is rubbed on both for 5 minutes each. It should help with reducing the inflammation. Some people only need one or two sessions to feel any sort of benefit, some need more.

I found the ultrasound very gentle, and relaxing to be honest. We started with me lying on my side, but this proved too painful, so I would have the sessions sitting down. The ultrasound device reminded me of the ones used for scans. Of course there's no screen, however. I found it a bit difficult to sit completely still; due to muscle twitches I experienced. I think this may be because of the Fibromyalgia. The physio understood though, and this didn't disrupt the sessions too much.

I had about 4 sessions, and although I still have a bit of the bursitis pain, it is a lot less painful than it was, when I started physio. I made sure I did the exercises too, which I think have also helped.

I've decided to see what kind of exercises I can tolerate, as well as the physio. I want to do this for general health, and to help me manage my weight. Since being on mood stabilisers, I've found my weight increasing and I want to try and lose that. Wish me luck!

Resources

1. https://www.arthritis-health.com/types/bursitis/hip-trochanteric-bursitis

2. http://www.mybursitis.com/bursitis-ultrasound.html

Friday, 28 July 2017

After CMHT Discharge

On 26th June, I was discharged from the Community Mental Health Team (CMHT). I was told I'd be sent my care plan in the post, so I'd know what to do depending on how well/ill I feel. At the time, I was having a fairly ok day and, although I felt anxious about being discharged, I accepted it and thought that maybe this was a good time for me to try coping just with self help and my support network of friends and family.

It was about 4 weeks before I eventually received my care plan, and in that time I was feeling more unwell, and really needed to be reminded of what to do. I rang the mental health team, to ask for my care plan, and also with the hope of being able to talk about how I'd been feeling. The line was bad unfortunately, and there was a lot of background noise. I had to repeat myself a lot, and couldn't face talking through how I felt in the end.

When my care plan arrived, I had a look through it and saw that there'd been some errors. On the front page was the Summary/Formulation of Need. It said:

Amy has been seen in primary care, however did not complete her therapy. There has been a history of bullying in school and emotional distress after a traumatic life decision. Amy feels that she has a diagnosis of Borderline Personality Disorder after comparing her symptoms to others and would like an OPA with a consultant psychiatrist in order to obtain a formal diagnosis. She is currently not working due to chronic pain caused by ME and hypermobility. She has agreed to have a short piece of work in regards to self compassion and anxiety management prior to her discharge from services.

26/6/17: Discharged from CMHT to continue her recovery independently in the community

As you may know, I have been formally diagnosed with Emotionally Unstable Personality Disorder (also known as Borderline Personality Disorder), but this was not confirmed in the Summary/Formulation of Need. When talking about my chronic pain conditions, it's written that I have ME and hypermobility. I actually have Fibromyalgia and Joint Hypermobility Syndrome.

The next page gives information on how I will be cared for in the community. In this, it mentions my GP is to provide future care and support. It also mentions my mental health medication (Aripriprazole 10mg and Sertraline 200mg) and that I can self refer to primary care if I need more support with anxiety.

The last few pages advise on what I would notice and what I should do when feeling relatively well (this is coded as GREEN), when I'm feeling that things are building up (AMBER) and when I am at crisis point (RED).

For GREEN, I would notice that I'm feeling more loved, less anxious, more motivated and impulsive etc. While I feel like this, I should continue with distraction techniques, self refer to Primary care if I feel able to tackle anxiety issues, and remind myself of positive comments I've received.

For AMBER, I would notice that I'm feeling low, that there's no point to anything, I'm being more argumentative, panicking, and having urges to self harm. While I feel like this, I should contact CMHT or out of hours and try to use coping strategies.

For RED, I would notice that I am having suicidal thoughts, dissociating a lot, becoming paranoid and isolating myself. While I feel like this I should contact CMHT and I may be reallocated to CPN and/or have an emergency OPA or medication review.

Although this care plan sounds pretty comprehensive, I've been finding it hard to concentrate on it and follow the advice. I've been feeling that I am between the Amber and Red stages, so should really contact CMHT but I'm put off by my experience when calling to ask for my care plan. I'm wondering about whether there's any point to asking for help from them. My mental health conditions are ongoing and what I need is ongoing care from mental health services. I remember my CPN saying that, due to funding cuts, they were only able to offer short term help. Should I call anyway? Will I be able to talk to someone or will there be lots of background noise again? I may need to talk about some difficult/private things and I worry others will hear me.

What I really want/need is ongoing contact with a CPN (preferably the one I was with before). It takes me a while to really open up and let go. I can sound positive if I don't know the person I'm talking to. I find it hard to really say how bad things are, so I may seem ok. Unfortunately, it looks as if I wouldn't be able to get a CPN on more than a short term basis.

I've been trying to use my support network as well; most of them being online. Thanks to social media algorithms, however, the status' etc that I post aren't always seen. I had a time very recently when I was feeling particularly low/paranoid/panicky and posted a status basically asking for friends to check in on me and notice when I'm spiralling. The first time I posted it, no one commented. I posted it again, and one person commented. Although I was of course grateful for one person noticing, I felt upset and angry that no one else had. I felt that surely out of 80ish friends, more would notice. I thought I was being ignored, or that I'd been muted/unfollowed by people I thought cared about me. I felt so awful and I guess I was getting to the RED stage of my care plan. I was too engulfed in my own horrible thoughts/feelings though, so could not motivate myself to read it and follow it.

The next day, I decided to take a break to see if anyone would notice I wasn't online. That only lasted a couple of days because I was so desperate to talk to friends, so no one noticed.

A few days after, I posted another status and was surprised to get a fair amount of comments of support. It definitely made me feel a bit better, although I knew that I still wasn't feeling well. Since then, I've had times where I'm numb, times when I'm emotional, and times where I have self harmed and felt suicidal. These feelings have been changing so rapidly though, I haven't been sure of what I should do. What if I feel really ill and decide to ring CMHT, but then I sound ok when I get through to them? What if they decide I should just rely on myself and then I'm left feeling awful again? Having rapidly changing moods is so hard when it comes to accessing help. Just because I may seem ok at one point (and may be feeling ok/numb as well) doesn't mean I'll feel like that for the rest of the day even!

The self compassion work did help me a bit, and I started to feel less paranoid if a friend didn't reply to me. I could consider that maybe they were just busy or not feeling well enough to talk. A support worker helped me with self compassion. Having that support from her did help me feel a bit better, but now it's not there, I've been feeling awful, alone, and paranoid about friends again.

The distraction techniques help as long as I'm not too unwell. I find it hard to catch myself before I get too ill though. My motivation to use the distraction techniques tends to be quite low as well.

I feel useless when it comes to looking after myself!

Tuesday, 4 July 2017

What Dissociation Feels Like to Me

This is something I vlogged about a couple of days ago (see below). I've been wondering what to blog/vlog about recently, and a friend suggested I write/speak about Dissociation and how I would describe my experience of it.


According to the Merriam-Webster website, dissociation is "the separation of whole segments of the personality (as in multiple personality disorder) or of discrete mental processes (as in the schizophrenias (sic)) from the mainstream of consciousness or of behaviour"¹

You do not have to have schizophrenia or multiple personality disorder to experience dissociation, as it is "one way the mind copes with too much stress, such as during a traumatic event"². Anyone can have short experiences of dissociation, but it is when it becomes long term that a dissociative disorder may be considered. 

The kinds of things you can experience when you dissociate may include:

  • " having gaps in your life where you can't remember anything that happened
  • feeling as though the world around you is unreal
  • feeling as though you are watching yourself in a film or looking at yourself from the outside
  • feeling as if you are just observing your emotions
  • your identity shifting and changing" ³
There are many other things you can experience, as part of dissociation, so no two people will experience this in exactly the same way. As shown on the Mind website, there are clinical terms for each type of dissociative symptom (for example, derealisation) also. 


For me, dissociation is a symptom of the disorder I have; Borderline Personality Disorder . The kinds of things I experience include feeling as if I'm not real, or the world around me isn't real. I can also feel as if I'm watching myself speaking or moving, and I do not feel completely in control. I may feel disconnected from my emotions, or I may start panicking (usually because of not feeling in control). Sometimes, I will look in the mirror and not recognise the person looking back at me. 

I dissociate quite often, and it can be very hard to "ground" myself. Grounding  is "a technique that helps keep someone in the present. They help reorient a person to the here-and-now and in reality". There are various techniques for grounding yourself, and they usually involve focusing on stimulating your five senses. One particular example  asks you to try the following: 

"Look around you. Identify and name:

5 things you see
4 things you feel
3 things you hear
2 things you smell
1 thing you taste "

Of course different techniques will work for different people.Have you found any techniques particularly helpful, if you experience dissociation? Please comment below. 


Resources





⁶ https://uk.pinterest.com/pin/38632509284472245/

Tuesday, 30 May 2017

Dear Distant Friend

I'm writing this whilst feeling very low and forgotten. I know I shouldn't dwell on the past, but it's hard to let go of old friends when they drift away. It's hard because the memories don't go, especially the memories of times you've been there for each other through some really difficult stuff. I can't just forget you, as if you never mattered. Because you really really did.

There could be many reasons why we drifted away, but please don't let it be because I got ill. All I wanted was to be believed and supported. I can't expect you to fully understand (although I really would appreciate you trying to) but when I cancelled plans, please believe me when I say it's because I wasn't well enough to meet up. I would never cancel because I can't be bothered. I loved the times we spent together and I get frustrated with myself for being ill (even though I know it's not my fault).

I miss the closeness we had. I miss how we'd confide in each other and be there for each other, through good times and bad. I wish I could switch off my feelings, because they are so painful, but I can't

One day, I hope I'm able to let you go if we're never close again.





Wednesday, 3 May 2017

My Socially Anxious Mind

"Oh no, I have to walk through a crowd of people. Act normal!

Am I avoiding eye contact too much? I'm sure I am. Just look at people so they don't think you're being weird.

No! You looked too long. Now people will think you're staring at them!

Am I walking weirdly? How about my posture? Am I walking too fast or too slow?

What if I get in their way? What if I try too hard and look like I'm avoiding them?

Do they think I dress weirdly? Is my makeup smudged? Does my hair look unruly?

My breathing's getting faster, I'm sure I'm sweating. I'm sure I look really nervous and suspicious. What if I'm acting suspiciously? Can they tell I'm panicking? Why can't I just cope with this?!

Oh god, I'm sure they can tell I'm panicking. Just. Act. Normal!"

Saturday, 22 April 2017

Accompanying someone to a Work Capability Assessment

I've had a face to face Work Capability Assessment, as well as a face to face assessment for Personal Independence Payment in the past. I'm not sure I thoroughly described my experience of these assessments, but today I want to talk through a Work Capability Assessment my father had recently. I accompanied him and took notes throughout.

We arrived at the assessment centre, with the daunting thought that we'd probably have to park quite far away. From my experience, I know that there are a lot of cameras outside these centres and (also from my experience) there's a very high chance that the assessor is watching you to see how far you walk from your car/stop to the building, and they will write their "findings" in your report.

Luckily, we found a space just a few metres from the building. As we entered, we were greeted by a G4S security guard; who immediately asked to see our appointment letter. They also asked if my father could manage stairs or a lift. Now we were under the impression that the assessment would be held on the ground floor, and I made this fact very clear to the security guard. I also mentioned that, although my father could manage to use the lift, he wouldn't be able to use it in the event of a fire & would not be able to use the stairs. The security guard accepted this (reluctantly) and showed us to the ground floor waiting room.

The waiting room was empty, apart from one elderly woman who was noticeably struggling with pain and balance. Although the waiting room was small, there were two cameras strategically placed to film anyone waiting for their assessment. I asked the woman if she was ok, and if she needed a cup of water (there was a water cooler nearby). She declined, but told me she was very nervous about her assessment, and was fed up that she'd been waiting 45 minutes already. I told her I thought that was awful, and she replied that the couple before her had been waiting over an hour. Just before we were called in (after a receptionist came to check my father's ID and sort out travel expenses), the couple the woman had mentioned, came out of the assessment room. One of them (I assume was the claimant) was clearly in agony and could barely walk. People who are struggling this much, should not have to make their way to an assessment. They should either be assessed on paper, or in their own home. Unfortunately the rules (for an ESA claim at least) state that a doctor's note is required before a home assessment is considered. There's not much time to organise this, so this means that people are having to drag themselves to assessment centres that are not always suitable for their needs.

A rather snooty healthcare professional came to call my father in for his assessment. It was easy to tell he was watching my father's every move as we walked towards the room. I have no doubt that this will be (inaccurately) noted in the ESA report. We sat down, and I got out the folder of evidence we wanted to show, as well as a notepad and pen. The "healthcare professional" (I have no idea what his actual profession was, and his badge only said Healthcare Professional) noticed this, and commented that I was allowed to take notes as long as they were just for reference and not to be used in any investigations (hmm). I gave him my most patronising smile and said that these were just for reference. It was obvious to me that he wasn't happy about this, but there was nothing he could do. I know what's allowed. One thing I wasn't happy with, was that he didn't even introduce himself to us.

The assessment then began. The questions asked first were to do with the medical conditions my dad was claiming ESA for. The assessor went through each condition and asked how long he'd had it for, who diagnosed him, any investigations he'd had, what treatments he was on, operations he'd had, whether he'd noticed any improvements, and which specialist/s (if any) he saw for these conditions. What I found was that I had to reword some of the questions the assessor asked, in order for my dad to understand them. The assessor spoke quite quietly, mumbled a lot, and didn't word questions in a clear way. For example, when asking about my dad's total knee replacement surgery, he asked how he was rather than whether he felt there'd been any improvement since the operation. For some, it may seem easy to get what the assessor meant, but when you are put on the spot, it's much better to be asked questions in a clearer way.

We next went onto the tablets my father is currently on. I'd brought them with me, so put them on the table so I could show each box to the assessor. He asked what my father took each medication for, how often, how many at a time, what strength, how long he'd been on them etc. As my dad answered, the assessor checked through each box (presumably to see if dad was telling the truth...).

After this, the assessor asked how we had travelled to the assessment centre, and how long it had taken us. He also asked who dad had travelled with (me!), my name, and age.

We discussed sleep problems next i.e., did dad have any, why he thought he struggled with sleep, how long he slept on average etc.

We then went onto the questions asked in the ESA50 (the limited capability for work questionnaire). The assessor started with personal care questions; such as washing and dressing. He asked how long it took to get out of bed, whether he needed help with dressing or used any aids (bed included). He also asked whether my dad was able to wash/dress his upper and lower body, have showers etc. My dad made sure to mention how much he struggles, and how pain and stiffness severely affect him.

Household tasks, cooking, shopping, and leisure activities were the next topics the assessor asked questions on. He asked what types of chores & cooking dad could manage, how often, whether he needed help, why he struggled and so on. I told the assessor that there's not much we can manage and I have to help my dad if his pain gets too much or he becomes confused.

As for shopping, we do nearly all of ours online (my mum and I take turns with this, as dad can't use a computer). We only go to the shops for a couple of bits (bread and milk, for e.g.) The assessor asked if we walked to the shops, and how far away they were. Dad said that the shops were only 5 or 10 minutes away, but we still had to drive there.

Dad was asked if he had any hobbies, but there wasn't much to discuss on this topic. His concentration is poor, and he doesn't have the energy spare for socialising so it's just light reading and watching a bit of television. The assessor then asked how long dad could stand/sit for. He tried to lead dad to agree with his suggestions for an answer (standing/sitting for 45 minutes, or 2 hours?). Dad was already exhausted and needed prompting, so I told him that it was more like standing for 5 minutes, and sitting for 30 minutes before having to sit back down or move around. This was due to stiffness in joints and pain. I'm hoping the assessor noticed that my dad had to get up a few times during the assessment, for these exact reasons.

The last question asked was how long my dad could walk for, before having to stop. I notice that assessors tend to ask how long (time taken) rather than how far (distance). This does not lead them to an accurate answer for how far a claimant can walk, however, and I think they do this on purpose. No two people will travel the same distance in the space of 5 minutes, for example. One may be able to walk 200 metres, whilst another could only manage 50 minutes. I believe the assessor predicts the furthest distance walked in the time specified; which of course makes the claimant appear more able than they are. I noticed that questions were repeated and reworded sometimes, in order to supposedly "catch us out". I think our answers were consistent though, and I'm glad I'd made my dad aware beforehand that this would happen.

The last part of the assessment was the clinical one; where dad had his blood pressure checked, then had to repeat some exercises (if possible). This consisted of bending/turning his head, moving his arms forward, backwards, to each side & over his head. He also had to make a fist with each hand, and push against the assessors hands. Lastly, he had to sit down and stretch and bend his legs, then push each one against the assessor's hands (both in front and behind).

At the end, the assessor explained what would happen next (writing up the report, sending it to the decision maker etc) and that we could ask for a mandatory reconsideration if unhappy with the decision. We were so glad to get out of the building soon after this!

So that was the face to face Work Capability Assessment! I hope my account of it may be helpful to anyone waiting for theirs. I'm no expert, just someone who has been through the process, but I am happy to read any comments or answer any questions you may have. If I'm not able to answer your question/s, then I will let you know where you may find the answers.

Sunday, 2 April 2017

Validation

A lot has happened since my last post about mental health . I've had two Community Psychiatric Nurse appointments; to discuss my main problems and where to start with treatment. I've also had a very thorough assessment with a Trainee Psychiatrist, and a Consultant Psychiatrist.

First CPN Appointment - 

My vlog below explains how my first CPN appointment went but to summarise; I was asked similar questions to those at my initial Community Mental Health Team assessment. I was also asked how I'd been since my assessment, and my main reasons for asking for help from the Secondary Care team. I explained how my last therapy session had gone (see My Mental Health Timeline and my vlog A Referral to CMHT for more details), the kind of help I felt I needed (beyond therapy) and the fact that I thought I might have Borderline Personality Disorder.

Once the CPN had asked all the questions she needed to, she gave me her impression of what support she believed would be best for me. At first she wondered whether Cognitive Behavioural Therapy, at Primary Care level, would be more suitable. After I explained more about my needs, however, she decided that some short term therapy for specific problems may be what I need at the moment. She also said that she would get a Consultant Psychiatrist appointment for me, to review diagnoses and medication.




Second CPN Appointment

My second CPN appointment was carried out at home. She asked how I'd been since the last appointment; to which I answered "a bit all over the place again". We went over my responses to questions about my main issues now, any relevant information from the past and any significant events in my life that may have led to my problems now. She asked me to explain my mood swings, how often I have them, how extreme they are, whether anything triggered them and how I coped with them. We went over the medication I took, and whether it helped me at all. Finally, she asked me some more specific BPD-based questions (relationships, mood swings, impulses, feelings of numbness etc). She concluded by suggesting I do some Self Compassion work with her and a support worker. She felt that this would be a stepping stone for me. I will be meeting the support worker (and CPN) on 11th April for this. I also have another CPN appointmen on 24th April, so will let you know how these went.


Psychiatrist Appointment

 A couple of days after my CPN appointment, I had a psychiatrist appointment. I saw a trainee psychiatrist for this, and was asked a lot of questions to cover a whole variety of mental health problems. As well as questions about depression, and various anxiety disorders, I was also asked about my experiences with paranoia, delusions, hallucinations, mania, impulses, and any instances of aggression. The amount of questions asked were exhausting and overwhelming, but I was glad that I was given an opportunity to talk about the kinds of symptoms I had that didn't just fit anxiety and depression. It helped me to remember the things I needed to talk about too, and I honestly don't think I forgot to mention anything! I have had a hallucination and some delusions before, although these aren't regular occurrences at all. I do get mild hypomania sometimes too, and have had impulsive behaviour (although these don't tend to go further than urges now).

The psychiatrist took lots of notes on what I'd mentioned (even things I weren't sure had happened often/severely enough to be relevant) and also asked about my request for a BPD assessment. After asking questions, more specific to the Borderline Personality Disorder diagnostic criteria, she discussed my responses with the consultant psychiatrist. He came into the room, and asked me more questions (to be absolutely sure, I guess) and then confirmed I had Emotionally Unstable Personality Disorder (aka Borderline Personality Disorder)

The consultant also discussed medication with me. He felt that I should stay on the Sertraline 200mg as it helped a bit, and suited me. In order to help balance my moods, he also prescribed the anti-psychotic Aripriprazole. I'm to take that at 5mg per day for a week, then 10mg per day.

Overall, I'm really pleased with the support I'm getting from the mental health team so far. I was so nervous about opening up about the diagnosis I thought I had, and what help I felt I needed. It was a bad start with the therapist, so I wasn't holding out much hope, but I'm glad I didn't give up! As well as support, as this blog post title says, I've felt validation.

Monday, 13 March 2017

Mental Health Questions Asked at Work Capability Assessments

(TW: Suicide)

Since my first Work Capability Assessment, my mental health has definitely declined. Throughout the process for claiming Employment and Support Allowance, claimants are treated as if they are faking/embellishing their disabilities. Letters from GPs, specialists, therapists etc are given little or no consideration in deciding whether someone is "fit for work", "fit for work related activity" or not fit for either.

There's a lot of pressure from filling in lengthy forms, gathering evidence (in the hope it will be considered), sending sick notes in on time, sending assessment forms in on time, being able to explain your disabilities to an assessor & hope they will not twist or completely disregard your words. This is all before a decision has been given, and already it is not surprising that someone's mental health will suffer.

A particular issue with Work Capability Assessments is how the assessor asks mental health-based questions; primarily suicide-based ones. Claimants are asked questions such as; "Have you ever tried to harm yourself or take your own life or needed to go to hospital?"¹, "do you have any intentions or plans to hurt yourself currently?"², and "what is it that stops you from acting on the thoughts that you have?"³ These questions are asked in a hostile environment; where the claimant is observed right from the moment they arrive in the car park of the assessment centre. To be asked such personal questions in that context is extremely distressing and has led to worsening of people's health conditions.

At my first Work Capability Assessment, I was asked if I have had thoughts of suicide, why I had those thoughts, whether I had attempted suicide, and what stopped me from attempting. It took a while for me to really open up about my suicidal thoughts to my own therapist, so being asked those questions so brazenly, by a stranger no less, was very distressing. I found it very hard to answer, and I burst into tears as I was made to think about my darkest times. The assessor was barely sympathetic, and was more interested in getting me to answer these questions.

Maximus has been criticised for the types of suicide-based questions they ask claimants, but their response has been that "Every healthcare professional we employ is trained to ask people with a mental health condition a series of clinical questions to assess how their condition affects their daily lives."

A spokesperson for the Department for Work and Pensions (DWP) said "If an individual has mental health issues or there is an indication of suicidal thoughts or intentions, this will be given careful and sensitive exploration to establish the circumstances"

According to a Freedom of Information request in 2014 (I haven't been able to find anything more recent unfortunately), WCA assessors get approximately 17 days' training if they are nurses or physiotherapists, and less than 17 days if they are doctors. I've looked through the PDFs released as part of the response to the request, & it appears that actual mental health training is only covered in just over 4 of those days for nurses, 7 days (including overviews of some mental health conditions) for physiotherapists, and just 2 days for doctors.

The British Association for Counselling and Psychotherapy (BACP) have ethical frameworks for working with suicidal clients. According to this, factors such as the following determine the best way of approaching the topic of suicide and what action to take:

  • The context in which therapy is taking place
  • The relationship with the client
  • The boundaries of confidentiality agreed
  • The confidence of the practitioner to explore the meaning of suicide

In the Risk Factors section of the BACP ethical framework document, it is stated that "Practitioners need to be aware of factors that might suggest their client is in a high-risk category" (for acting on suicidal thoughts). This doesn't mean that those in statistically non-high risk categories are unlikely to carry out any plans, but gives a guideline that can determine "the dialogue that then needs to take place with the client". Sources of information on high-risk category clients can also provide vital tools that support risk assessments. 

When exploring how to word questions based around suicidal thoughts & plans, the ethical framework document says "The wording of such questions is important and needs to be treated sensitively. Much will depend upon the setting in which the therapy takes place, the age, understanding, or emotional capacity of the client, and the individual approach of the practitioner" "It is important for practitioners to think about how they might ask a client about suicide. However, best practice suggests asking clearly, openly, and empathically"

This document goes on to explain that it is also important to explore protective factors with the client, and encourage them to use those support networks etc. If the client is at high risk of attempting suicide then specialist mental health services may need to be involved. 

And this is all within a therapeutic setting. A work capability assessment is by no means a therapeutic setting, & the vital resources for dealing with suicide risk are not there; which makes approaching the topic of suicide with the claimant potentially very risky. This could quite easily lead to the worsening of suicidal thoughts and even plans. As for the discussion of protective factors, this is only very briefly touched upon in Work Capability Assessments, so is very unlikely to counteract the impact of asking a claimant (for e.g.) if they have considered suicide, and what methods they would use/have used. If risk of suicide needs to be explored, as part of someone's assessment, surely the healthcare professionals involved in the monitoring/treatment of their mental health (therapists, psychiatrists, GPs even) should be contacted? This could also determine whether a face to face assessment would be necessary, or whether it would be likely to cause a significant deterioration in the claimant's mental health. 


Resources:

¹, ², ³ DNS Article - "Maximus 'admits' using brutal and dangerous suicide questions": http://www.disabilitynewsservice.com/maximus-admits-using-brutal-and-dangerous-suicide-questions/

Article in the Independent - "DWP's fit-to-work tests 'cause permanent damage to mental health' study finds": http://www.independent.co.uk/news/uk/politics/fit-to-work-wca-tests-mental-health-dwp-work-capability-assessment-benefits-esa-pip-a7623686.html

Freedom of Information Request: https://www.disabilityrightsuk.org/news/2014/september/wca-assessors-how-much-training

Nurses' training documents: https://www.disabilityrightsuk.org/sites/default/files/pdf/nurses.pdf (see pages 6-7)

Physiotherapists' training documents: https://www.disabilityrightsuk.org/sites/default/files/pdf/physiotherapists.pdf (see pages 7-9)

Doctors' training documents: https://www.disabilityrightsuk.org/sites/default/files/pdf/doctors.pdf (see page 8)

BACP "Working with Suicidal Clients" - Introduction: http://www.bacp.co.uk/ethical_framework/documents/GPiA042.pdf (see page 6)

BACP "Working with Suicidal Clients" - Risk factors: http://www.bacp.co.uk/ethical_framework/documents/GPiA042.pdf (see page 8)


Tuesday, 28 February 2017

"Not really disabled"

The other day, George Freeman (Theresa May's Policy Chief) gave some very insulting and trivialising comments about anxiety disorders. You'll find the details in this article . It seems he believes that those with anxiety disorders are "not really disabled". Apparently all we do is sit at home; taking pills.

After a lot of (very much deserved!) criticism, he responded with a feeble non-apology; where he expressed "regret" that people were offended. Now I do understand that he has had an anxiety disorder in the past & I would never invalidate his experience of that. I do think, however, he needs to educate himself on various anxiety disorders. He may then learn that the symptoms can vary in severity, are complex, and can be very debilitating.

Disability is officially defined in the Equality Act 2010 as this:

"A person (P) has a disability if-

(a) P has a physical or mental impairment, and
(b) the impairment has a substantial and long-term adverse effect on P's ability to carry out normal day-to-day activities."

I cannot speak for everyone with an anxiety disorder/s, but here are the ones that I have and how they affect me.

Agoraphobia

I get very anxious about leaving the house; especially if there are people outside. To travel anywhere, I rely on my dad driving me. I get far too anxious to take public transport, and can't even take a taxi on my own. I can't manage group situations where I have to stay in the room/it'd be considered rude to leave suddenly (such as a class or meeting) and have to be near the toilet or exit if I'm in a restaurant/cafe etc.

Last time I managed to take a train by myself (years ago), I had panic attacks and had to wait for a later train than the one I'd planned to take. I felt very nauseous, dizzy, shaky and sweaty for the entire journey. Once I arrived at my destination, I was physically and emotionally exhausted. I found it very hard to focus, and when I had to change trains, I ended up lost for an hour and almost in tears at the train station. It's a good job the friend I was meeting was a patient one! In order to get home, I had to get my dad to pick me up (the journey takes over an hour by car).

Obsessive Compulsive Disorder

I've had OCD since childhood, and have tried hard to hide my compulsions. On a bad day, it stops me from leaving the house. It makes me irritable, snappy, and has caused arguments in the past. I take much longer to do things than I should, and am often late for appointments because I've had to complete compulsions, or repeat them until I am "reassured" enough to leave the house. This condition makes me feel trapped and, when I did work, it caused me to miss meetings and compromised my performance at work.


Generalised Anxiety Disorder

I don't react well to changes in plans. I need to know what to expect, Usually, my anxiety flares up in response to things, but I do find that I can randomly panic and not know what has set it off. I get panicky about hypothetical situations, and cannot just wait to deal with a certain situation when it occurs. I tend to think 10 steps ahead of myself, and think of the worst case scenario. I will dwell on potential problems; even more so if I cannot think of a solution.

I find I get very paranoid as well, and I worry a lot about people's opinions of me. I worry about losing friends and look for cues that they may be annoyed at me or drifting away. I also am constantly asking for reassurance.

Phone Phobia

Recently, my phobia of this has lessened and I can now cope with making some phone calls. I still find that I get very nervous when receiving phone calls though, and most of the time I will leave it to go to voicemail. I worry about not knowing the answers to questions I may be asked on the phone. I also worry about not having details like reference numbers ready when needed. I often mishear things and get very anxious (panicky even) if I have to keep asking the other person to repeat themselves. When I worked, I had customers react angrily over the phone because of this. I would avoid answering the phone in the workplace, and have been told off by my manager. I think this contributed to decisions not to carry on my temporary contract too.

I cannot think of a job where you are not expected to use a phone, leave the house, go to meetings, cope with changes, be punctual, have good attendance or be timely with tasks. Even without my other mental health and physical health problems, I highly doubt I could manage work of any kind.

So yes, George Freeman, I may sit at home and take pills but there's so much more to anxiety than that, and yes I am "really disabled".
    

Friday, 3 February 2017

My Mental Health Timeline

Childhood: When I think back to my childhood, I believe I had some mild mental health problems back then; which were probably brought on by the bullying I experienced. I have always had a low self-image, and been critical of myself. I've always had anxiety in some form or another as well. I'd feel anxious about eating in front of people, being in busy places, and catching the bus. I still managed to do all of these things, but I constantly worried about embarrassing myself, seeing one of my bullies, or having a panic attack. I self harmed fairly frequently as a way of releasing my emotions, and as a way of punishing myself for not dealing with things as well as I thought I should.

As I moved onto secondary school and the bullying continued, I became very self conscious & blamed myself for anything that went wrong. I started carrying out certain routines (praying 3 times, exactly at midnight) and carrying "lucky charms" in specific pockets. I truly believed that, if I did this, the bullying would lessen or I'd cope with it better. If I didn't carry out the routines, or forgot to bring certain "lucky charms" with me, I believed my day would be awful & that I wouldn't be able to cope with anything. If I did have a bad day, I believed it was because I hadn't done my routine properly or at the right time. I started to have violent intrusive thoughts, that led to violent dreams. I worried that I'd carry out those violent acts and that I was a terrible, evil person.


University: When I finished school, I decided to go to a university where it was unlikely I'd know anyone. I needed a fresh start, and felt I was a bit happier and confident enough to make new friends. I think this was one of the best decisions I made. I was independent, popular, enjoying life! I was also very impulsive and a bit of a risk taker when it came to certain impulses.

In my second year of university, the physical health problems started and I think this is what led to the anxiety relapse and depression. It certainly didn't help that I was in an abusive relationship at the time, and lost friends thanks to my fluctuating physical illness. I blamed myself for everything again and felt I had to explain why I was well enough to go out some days, and not others. I felt very trapped and isolated by my illness, as well as by my partner at the time. We broke up, but I still felt isolated & I struggled with making plans. As well as feeling too physically ill to attend most lectures, I became very anxious with being in busy lecture halls. I spent more time in my room & became fairly paranoid about friends. I wondered what they thought of me, whether they believed me, whether I was losing them.


Work: After university, I had my first full time job. I was in a relationship at the time, and was fairly happy. It was lovely to come home from work to my partner. He made me feel wanted, and encouraged me to be more sociable. Although not as good as university, I became a little more sociable; catching up with old friends. When it came to work, I often felt as if I wasn't good enough. I struggled with phone-calls, as I worried that the customer wouldn't think I was competent. I still had anxiety with busy situations, and found meetings made me panicky. Whenever I could, I would avoid meetings.  Eventually, my physical health had worsened so much that I had to give up working. My anxiety had worsened a lot too.


Breaking Up: The paranoia I had, the anxiety, and the fact that I wasn't well enough to go out much, I think led to my partner breaking up with me. I struggled with being single, and felt completely worthless and broken. Finding out that he'd met someone else just two days later didn't help either. Was I that easily replaceable? I'd moved back to my parents' flat and away from old friends. Most of my social interactions were online, and so I didn't go out much. I lost more friends, and ended up breaking ties with the rest of one friendship group, before they broke ties with me. It hurt a lot, and I still have times where I dwell on it now.



Unemployment: Once I'd moved back home, I had to decide whether to force myself to work again , or to try claiming Employment and Support Allowance. I was really worried that I'd be thought of as "faking it" or just not being ill enough to qualify. After a horrible assessment, I was accepted for ESA. Stories in the tabloids of "fakers", "scroungers" etc made me paranoid that maybe I'd be accused of this if I was seen outside, or walking one step further than I should be. If I saw a strange car or van outside, or if someone looked at me for longer than normal, I instantly thought they worked for the government.


Starting Therapy: I noticed my moods had been so low, and finally decided to open up to my GP about this. (You can find my blog post about this here). I was given the number to self refer for Cognitive Behavioural Therapy. My first lot of CBT was at a low intensity level, and I saw my therapist every fortnight. We talked about my home situation, physical health (and how that had an impact on my mental health) as well as things that'd happened recently and how to re-examine my thoughts. I liked the therapist, but wasn't finding therapy very beneficial. It seemed too simplistic, and I wasn't sure I really fit the boxes that come with mental health questionnaires etc. I didn't know how to explain it so thought that maybe I just wasn't trying hard enough. I started to have very strong suicidal urges, and was soon in crisis. My therapist at the time contacted crisis team, and I had assessments but nothing else could be offered for the diagnoses I had (Generalised Anxiety Disorder, & Depression). I got very panicky at my last low intensity therapy session, and was then referred on to high intensity CBT. I was also prescribed Amitriptyline by my GP, to see if this would help my moods.

I didn't seem to have such a good rapport with my second therapist. I felt she was repeating a lot of what I'd already learnt about CBT, and I wasn't given much opportunity to talk through how I felt. It seemed more about going through worksheets. If my suicidal thoughts were more frequent, my therapist would instantly go to contacting crisis team. In the end, I told her not to, and I began to hide my darkest feelings and just comply with the worksheets. I ended up finishing this lot of CBT early, partly because I couldn't get transport there any more (and was too anxious to use taxis/buses), partly because it just wasn't helping me.

My third lot of CBT (again at high intensity level) was carried out at home. I was far too anxious to travel, and had then been diagnosed with Agoraphobia, which helped a lot with getting a therapist to come to my house. I got on well with this therapist, and was opening up a bit more. I still didn't find much benefit from the worksheets, and found that I was just going through the motions with homework. It seemed I wanted the therapist to think they'd helped me a lot. I felt like I was failing otherwise. Apart from this, I found a bit of benefit from having the odd walk outside, with the therapist. She wanted me to get a bit more confident outside, and I liked how we didn't have to always be indoors for therapy. I knew I needed help for my agoraphobia, and having someone accompany me outside and build up to me being a bit more independent, would be a good idea. Unfortunately the sessions came to an end before I could make any noticeable progress.

As well as going through therapy, my latest crisis also led to some appointments with a psychiatrist. They changed my medication to Sertraline (with Diazepam as a short emergency prescription). They also suggested I have Psychodynamic therapy, as CBT didn't seem to be suiting me. Unfortunately, I was not given that therapy. I'm not sure any available therapists were trained to carry it out. My third CBT therapist did say, however, that due to the trauma I'd experienced in the past, she may be able to offer me EMDR, as she was training in it. She wanted me to have a break from therapy for a few months first though.

Moving: My parents and I moved house quite quickly, a couple of months after the third lot of therapy. Unfortunately the area we moved to was not under the same mental health team, so I was discharged and told to approach my GP and get referred to the team in my new area. I struggled to get up the courage for quite a while, and took longer to phone the self referral number. I wanted to avoid mental health services altogether, and be left alone. I felt that I wouldn't be reliable and would be discharged for cancelling so many appointments; due to (physical) ill health. When I did eventually call the number, and soon after got my telephone assessment, I found myself rambling a lot to the therapist on the phone. I wasn't sure where to start, and was already very nervous. It felt as if they listened though.

Interpersonal Therapy: I was very pleased to be offered a type of therapy that wasn't Cognitive Behavioural Therapy. I needed to talk about things in the past, and how I formed/maintained relationships, so Interpersonal Therapy seemed like a more suitable one for my issues. At my most recent session, however, I lost trust in my therapist after they dismissed my concerns about my self harming getting worse, as well as a diagnosis I thought I might have. This condition is Borderline Personality Disorder. I explained some of the reasons why I thought I had it, but I didn't feel listened to. The therapist just told me that BPD was something that psychiatrists diagnose you with, if they don't know what's wrong with you. This made me really angry, as I know this condition is real. I couldn't listen to what he said for the rest of the session, and spent most of it wondering whether to just walk out. It was a good job I stayed until the end though, as he suggested I get referred to Secondary Care services (CMHT). I went to my GP the next day, who contacted my therapist to confirm this referral was right for me. After a quick phonecall with the therapist, later that day, I was referred. I was contacted the following day by CMHT; who gave me an appointment for 3rd February.

Community Mental Health Team (Secondary Care): On Friday, 3rd February, I went to my appointment. In the room there was a Community Psychiatric Nurse (CPN). and psychology assistant observing. The CPN explained about my referral and gave me a Wellbeing questionnaire to fill in rather than the usual Depression (PHQ9) and Anxiety (GAD) ones. This questionnaire included questions about coping, making decisions, whether I've felt close to people etc. I've found this questionnaire, with similar questions. I was ticking rarely or none of the time for a lot of them; so I'm guessing my "wellbeing" isn't great!

The CPN then went on to asking why I think I've been referred to the Secondary Care Team, what my main struggles are, and what sort of help I think I need. I spoke about mood swings, the intensity of my moods, how I would be full of emotion (to the point where I feel I'll burst) or feeling nothing at all. I told him how I found it hard to cope with how quickly/extremely my moods can change. I mentioned the numerous crises I've had, suicidal thoughts (which became plans at one point) and frequent self harming that's getting worse. I said I was feeling less in control when it came to my moods and self harming. I can get very irritable and angry, but tend to turn this anger on myself. I also mentioned the times where I've been hypomanic, quite impulsive, agitated etc and how I find that strange; given my diagnosis.

I spoke about the many years of psychological bullying I experienced, as well as an abortion I had at 19, and a controlling, abusive relationship I had, not long after.

Finally, I spoke about my last therapy session, where I felt I could now open up about how, for over a year, I've wondered if I have Borderline Personality Disorder.  I can relate to pretty much all the criteria, although some were more prominent when I was a teenager/ very early 20s. The CPN didn't confirm or deny a BPD diagnosis, but did say that (looking over what I'd told him) he believed I had a long-standing trauma related disorder. He wasn't entirely sure if secondary or primary care would be more suitable for me, but he would have a word with my therapist and give me a call next week.

So this is where I'm at now. I'm not entirely sure what to think about the CMHT appointment. It was a shorter appointment than I expected, and not quite as thorough either. The CPN did ask some specific questions, but it was mainly left to me to explain how I'd been feeling. There were things I forgot to mention to him (and he has given me contact numbers to ring if I do need to talk about them) but I think he got a fairly good picture of my problems. I guess I'll just have to wait and see!

Thursday, 12 January 2017

Hypomania symptoms?

Please watch my latest vlog, about mental health and physical health updates! If you like my vlogs, please share and subscribe!